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Hartwood has been widely covered for multiple reasons - people dining there tend to be of a certain creative milieu, they're at the end of the world where there's no cell phone reception, spotty electricity, eco chic (in which $millions are invested) all around. White linen shirts for men, casual thongs under see through dresses for women.... of course some of the world's worst architecture, LTE, air conditioning, etc. are just minutes away, and every bit of land has been bought out by hotel and resort operators, but that's outside. Inside is inside.

 

Of course such surroundings would give a place more than a small advantage (although there's a lot of competition nearby that appears very similar). Of course the mostly charming FOH staff can't be dismissed either, and of course the idea of the place is as deeply hipster as can be (people who can actually cook, people who can actually make cocktails, people who can actually run service, taking the crude local restaurant concept and making it good but ridiculously expensive for Quintana Roo) and very successful at it, but...

 

The food is amazing. The cocktails are excellent. The host (ok, guy with a mustache and curls) is what every restaurant in nyc would kill for. The epitome of solicitousness.

 

I don't know if this is in the top 10 places in Mexico as I haven't been to all the ones considered to be near the top, but I can tell you with reasonable confidence that right now it's the best of its genre.

 

 

Among the dishes we had:

 

Ceviche of red snapper - this was done in a different style from the standard issue local ceviche (cilantro, tomato, lime, white onion, lime or naranja agria), instead served in peruvian style leche de tigre. Not nearly as sharp or acidic and just the right degree of denaturing on the fish.

 

Nopales salad - some pieces of nopal (not many), citrus marinated and grilled, with pea shoots, sunflower seeds, pickled onion, bread. Tasty, but a salad.

 

Grilled then marinated calamari salad - the grilling was just to give the surface flavor while keeping the inside basically raw for marination, served with chickpeas and some greens and onions. Delicious.

 

Jicama salad - pieces of jicama, large enough to maintain some personality but thin enough to pick up some chili+lime sauce, some watermelon, pumpkin seeds, something orange I didn't catch. Beautiful.

 

Empanadas of lechon - two of those, but should have been a dozen.

 

Langosta in butter - a 4lb spiny lobster, the shell grilled for smoke, the meat cooked in butter, served on a bed of some impossibly good potatoes and red peppers. I'm usually not a great fan of the Caribbean lobster, but now I think I'm actually not a fan of freezer burn and poor preparation. This was yet another one in the list of lobsters better than Maine. (900 pesos)

 

costillas in agave - yes, nearly falling off the bone or really nearly melting bones.

 

pulpo (oven roasted then grilled) - the octopus was fine, but the potatoes under it were the killer component.

 

A very good and large skin-on fillet of grouper, served on top of a magnificent bean salad

 

A too sweet side of eggplant in honey

 

elote ice cream, the only dessert. I can't say I cared.

 

 

Of course Hartwood is also annoying in many ways - no reservations and if you don't show up at six o'clock sharp, or at most 6:30 during this very slow season, you're either not eating, waiting for a couple of hours, or waiting for a couple of hours and then eating what little of the menu is not finished. It's cash only even though prices are not low at all for the area (the meal will be approximately 4.5x the price of an analogous meal at a reputable cocteleria or a regional cuisine place), and they're not particularly helpful to people who have just walked 20+ minutes from their mega eco accomodations to discover they're a couple of hundred pesos short (I've observed this, not relying on online bitching). The website will confuse you by saying they open at 7pm on one page, though. While you eat, someone walks around every few minutes and smokes the place to high heaven, I guess as a mosquito repelling measure but maybe it's better to take your chances with dengue. Oh, and they cook everything using a wood burning oven, which I guess is kind of eco because there's just too much boring jungle full of monkeys, foxes and stuff, and not enough burning going on. Also, this is a high quality protein, fruit, and vegetable kind of place - not totopos, no tortillas, no bread except the thin dough on the empanadas and a couple of potatoes. And they add 15% tip without pointing it out. And they offer you to pay in USD at an extortionist exchange rate.

p.s. Seating is on wooden, backless benches, which obviously disqualifies the restaurant (as well as most of the area) for some esteemed MF members. Also, cocktails are served in these

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Based on your participation in that other thread I am surprised that in separate dishes the superlatives were reserved for potatoes.

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:D

 

I do think the lobster and butter drippings were responsible for the impossible goodness of said potatoes. (also, it's unusual to get potatoes that are any good at all down here)

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A fifth visit showed what could either be the effects of high season, or the realities of the locale creeping into the operation. The people standing in line before the open are now ones who have to rush across the street to buy a beer (or a shot of tequila) to keep the buzz going. A dinner that was previously served over a leisurely 2 hours and change is now processed in an hour and 20 minutes, with annoying Mexican waiters peering into your plates to snatch them away as soon as they're empty, and the kitchen firing mains when the same waiters gauge your plate as being 3/4 done (which then means your $90 spiny lobster gets to stand at the pass).

 

Add this to the annoyances pointed out above and you get the same food, but a lot less magic, at least when Tulum is booked solid. Wait for low season.

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NY Times

 

 

 

Tulum is the endpoint of the Riviera Maya, an international beach destination just south of Cancún that is being leveled and developed into hotels, resorts and golf courses at breathtaking speed. But Tulum itself is perched on crumbly limestone, at the tip of a vast underground lagoon that opens into a coral reef and coastline so rich in biodiversity (monkeys, orchids, manatees and more) that it is protected by Unesco. Construction here is tightly regulated, and standard restaurant amenities — including, say, a power grid and flush toilets — are unavailable or restricted.

At Hartwood there are no stoves, no convection ovens, no deep fryers: only wood fire to cook with. The kitchen is open to the elements, an expanse of poured concrete with work tables, picnic coolers full of ice and whole fish, and baskets of fruit. All the kitchen prep is done with knives and a single appliance (a blender, powered by the restaurant’s small generator), mostly by Jamie Klotz, the sous-chef, and a team of locals who did not come with knife skills learned at culinary school.

And yet there are 14 different fresh juices at the bar, unforgettable slow-braised short ribs and a lime tart so soft and smooth you want to sleep on it, dusted with fragrant dried flowers of the chamomile plants that grow on the roadsides. Jicama for salad is cut in smooth white squares, dotted with sweet purple cactus preserves and set on a pale-green mint cream. Plantains are roasted whole in their skins until smoky and succulent, then dusted with fresh-grated canela, soft Mexican cinnamon.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/dining/rewriting-the-menu-in-tulum-mexico.html?ref=dining

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The crumbly limestone ain't stopping nobody from doing their work. 488 residential lots, 105 commercial lots, 7 hotel lots, all coming online.

 

project-aldea-zama1.png

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Aldea Zama (that's the part further from the beach) already has houses and condos, probably another year until it's mostly done. Maya Zama will not be built as described because nobody wants a golf course there, but all of the land you see between downtown Tulum and the little "eco" stretch right on the beach belongs to condo and hotel developers and will get built over the next few years unless there's another crisis. The land across the highway is all for sale now (cheap, but not cheap enough, so don't buy) as the plans for an international airport there have been scrapped and the speculators are panicking out.

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I'll be in the area next week and a dinner here will hopefully happen. I'll be sure to get a good buzz on so I don't have to buy a beer for the wait :P.

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Ori, you have any recs in town?

 

The whole place seems to have changed a bit. The street view of the beach road is crazy busy compared to any times I've been there.

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It's after semana santa and before the euro holidays, should be relaxed enough. (the Ahau beach club is not a bad place to hide, unless they have a wedding).

 

You know El Camello Jr., right? And there's an aguachiles right next to it. El Capitan may or may not be good, I haven't been to their current location. There's the cazuelas place near the northern entrance to town but you have to come at the right time. Don Cafeto does what it does well, but it's not something I find very appealing, so it's hard to recommend. I've seen references to El Asadero but haven't been yet.

 

There are a bunch of other okay places on the beach strip, like El Tabano, but they're all playing to a captive audience.

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El Camello Jr I do know. I saw El Tabano on some blog or other -- they liked it. Ditto on the looks of Don Cafeto and I'll check out Asadero.

 

The Tacolicious guys recommend El Rincon Chiapaneco which given Tacolicious I should probably avoid.

 

Thanks!

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So we never made it to Hartwood. One time the line was there and then some and we had to stop "home" first, the other the list was closed by 7:30 (a Sunday).

 

Basically next door, a new place, Gitano, trying to be hip and cool. The space is nice enough -- lots of fire, but a disco ball???? -- but the food isn't. Eggplant almost raw, ceviche a weird sweet Thai flavor, a whole grilled fish was fine. Cocktails were super simple. You're better off with some mezcal. I'd go back for a drink at the bar but not much else.

 

In town, we made it to El Asedero. Well cooked medium rare flank steak with grilled nopale and charred onions. The meat was a lot better than I expected and with a good char. The onions were the best I've had in that style. A side of beans was woefully under seasoned but they give you a bowl of salt. I'll be back when I'm in the area for a week or so but wouldn't make a point of visiting otherwise. Service was great though -- definitely above average for the area.

 

El Camello was up and down. The mixed ceviche wasn't my favorite (I remember a better rendition last time) but my squid with guajillo chiles was the best thing I ate on the trip. Super deep, rich flavor. Lauren's fish was excellent as well.

 

The sugar cane mojitos on the little euro block are better than I get here.

 

On our way out we stopped at a taco place on Satelite. Two types of pork, fresh made tortillas, lots of people on their lunch. I'll post a photo and name when I get to it.

 

Otherwise, our hotel friend recommended Cetli in town. Her favorite and looks promising but we didn't have enough time.

 

On the beach, it's on the beach. The "best in the world" obviously isn't but you can find something edible. The name escapes me but I'lll post a favorite when I look through the photos.

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Oriks description remains accurate even if it took four and a half different waiters to get us a bottle of water (what would LNY do in Tulum?) because the eight birthday parties from various PR firms and Euros awaiting the start of Croatian Yacht Week but they were friendly about it and it was my so intrusive to stop a second visit. Probably the best NBC restaurant I've eaten at.

 

There's a clone next door called Arca run by some former Pujol chef and someone who "cooked in San Francisco" and clearly real well funded that's actually pretty good, in particular the whole grilled grouper. It hasn't quite caught on yet, which means they probably need to install a disco ball.

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